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Why are black people much more likely to be compulsorily treated for mental health, asks BASW

BASW has called for a review to uncover why black people are three times more likely to be compulsorily admitted for psychiatric treatment than white people in England.

The Association was responding to a report by the National Institute for Health Research revealing massive variation in compulsory admissions between different groups in the population.

Robert Nisbet, a member of the BASW England Mental Health Reference Group, said: “This discrepancy in the figures for the compulsory detention of black patients is greatly concerning. In addition, compulsory admission is greater in more socio-economically deprived areas and in areas with more non-white residents. This is not a one off and it is time to take this far more seriously.

“We need an urgent and comprehensive review of mental health services and not just tinkering around the edges. We need to consider how services respond and are delivered, based on ethnicity, where people live and their personal economic circumstances. Providing equity is as far from being achieved as it has been throughout the history of mental health services.”

Mr Nesbit claimed more people were experiencing crisis with their mental health because of a lack of services available to help them.

“We know the number of psychiatric beds have been reduced. This was largely based on predictions that admissions would be reduced by using such services as 'Assertive Outreach' and Home Treatment’ combined with increased investment in ‘talking therapies’.

“However, many areas have not had enough investment in these services despite the reduction in the number of beds and more people experiencing mental health crisis. What we have now is a ‘car crash’ scenario for access to beds in many parts of the country.” 

BASW professional officer Joe Godden added: “There is a wealth of evidence that this massive variation in compulsory admission between different groups of people is not because black people have three times the rates of mental ill health; although there are higher rates of mental ill health because of social inequalities.

“Many of these issues were raised at a recent round table meeting with MPs organised by BASW and Social Perspectives Network (SPN) in Westminster.”

A report from that round table meeting will be shared at a Revisiting models of mental health services event on World Social Work Day on March 17.

The National Institute for Health Research report is called Variation in compulsory psychiatric inpatient admission in England and is available here

More information on Revisiting models of mental health services event here